80 Pound Altamaha River Flathead

Gary Harrell fishes six nights a week, and his persistence paid off big.

For the past several years, Gary Harrell, of Douglas, has camped out six nights a week at the Altamaha Regional Park in Glynn County, just to fish.

Every evening he sets out many limb lines baited with bream in hopes of catching a monster catfish.

“Since my father passed away, I had to find something to do with myself and my time,” said Gary.

Each year since, Gary spends all of his free time fishing and camping. He said that he only goes home about once a week to check on things.

“My biggest flathead until now was only 48 pounds. I just wanted to beat that this year,” said Gary.

The evening of Thursday, May 26, Gary went about his normal routine for setting limb lines. He ventures out by himself, setting the lines and making sure he will be able to find them the next morning.

The following morning, May 27, Gary was eager to check for catfish, just like every other morning.

“As soon as I got to that line, I could tell it was a big one,” said Gary.

Once Gary realized how big the flathead was, he hooked the catfish again while still in the water beside the boat to have it more secure while trying to pull him into the boat.

“I had a real time trying to get him the boat, as you can imagine, but it was fun,” said Gary.

After roughly 30 minutes of struggling to get the monster on board, Gary finally had the fish in the boat.

“I’m sure everyone would have loved to watch that,” said Gary. “I was sitting in the bottom of the boat, so there I was with a monster catfish in my lap.”

After making his way back to the park and several photo-shoots later, Gary was able to get his catfish weighed, and it pulled the scales to 80 pounds.

“I didn’t plan on setting the bar this high for myself,” said Gary, “but I’m glad I did. I just wanted to catch one bigger than 48 pounds.”

The biggest flathead catfish caught on rod and reel from the Altamaha River, according to GON’s official Lake and River records weighed 83 pounds, which just happens to be the state record. Two anglers are tied for that prestigious record—Carl Sawyer (2006) and Jim Dieveney (2010).

Even though GON only recognizes rod-and-reel fish on its Lake and River records, we really enjoy hearing about those monster cats caught on limb lines, trot lines and floats. If you catch one this summer, please send pictures and caption information to letters@gon.com.

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